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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Navy Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) Program: Background and Issues for Congress

Ronald O'Rourke
Specialist in Naval Affairs

The Aegis ballistic missile defense (BMD) program, which is carried out by the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and the Navy, gives Navy Aegis cruisers and destroyers a capability for conducting BMD operations. Under MDA and Navy plans, the number of BMD-capable Navy Aegis ships is scheduled to grow from 24 at the end of FY2011 to 41 at the end of FY2018.

Under the Administration’s European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) for European BMD operations, BMD-capable Aegis ships are operating in European waters to defend Europe from potential ballistic missile attacks from countries such as Iran. On October 5, 2011, the United States, Spain, and NATO jointly announced that, as part of the EPAA, four BMD-capable Aegis ships are to be forward-homeported (i.e., based) at Rota, Spain, in FY2014 and FY2015. BMDcapable Aegis ships also operate in the Western Pacific and the Persian Gulf to provide regional defense against potential ballistic missile attacks from countries such as North Korea and Iran. On March 15, 2013, the Department of Defense (DOD) announced that it is dropping the fourth and final phase of the EPAA and canceling the development program for the Aegis SM-3 Block IIB interceptor missile that was to be deployed under that phase.

The Aegis BMD program is funded mostly through MDA’s budget. The Navy’s budget provides additional funding for BMD-related efforts. MDA’s proposed FY2014 budget requests a total of $2,087.2 million in procurement and research and development funding for Aegis BMD efforts, including funding for Aegis Ashore sites that are to be part of the EPAA. MDA’s budget also includes operations and maintenance (O&M) and military construction (MilCon) funding for the Aegis BMD program.

Issues for Congress regarding the Aegis BMD program include the following:

  • the impact on the Aegis BMD program of the March 1, 2013, sequester on FY2013 funding and unobligated prior-year funding for the program; 
  • the potential impact on the Aegis BMD program of a possible sequester later this year or early next year on FY2014 funding and unobligated prior-year funding for the program; 
  • U.S. vs. European naval contributions to European BMD; 
  • the lack of a target for simulating the endo-atmospheric (i.e., final) phase of flight of China’s DF-21 anti-ship ballistic missile; and 
  • concurrency and technical risk in the Aegis BMD program.

Date of Report: October 17, 2013
Number of Pages: 83
Order Number: RL33745
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